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The Sounds of the City, Part Two

I still feel vague, morbid surprise every time I get on the subway. Don’t people fall off the platform? Get hit by the front car? Land on the third rail? I’m fascinated by the garbage between the rails, by the rats. It amazes me that in this world where consumers are cautioned that bags of peanuts contain nuts, where playgrounds are padded and cars have upwards of four airbags and onboard maps, that I just walk through this turnstile and am expected to watch out for my own safety. There’s no guardrails, no guards, no attempt to keep people back other than the rough yellow floor panels. Every time I get hit with the whack of air pushed aside by the front of the car roaring into the station (which I try to not inhale), I check to make sure I’m back from the edge. I imagine London. Madrid. Die Hard: With a Vengeance. What will I do when catastrophe strikes? [It may be worth noting that I have exceeded my lifetime allotment of Law and Order, as recommended by the Association for Propagating Realistic Fears Through Television Council.] This continued fascination with the subway is probably one of the things that will give me away as a non-New Yorker, even if I spend the next thirty years here.

New Yorkers are supposed to be unflappable. Callous. They’ve seen it all, they don’t notice insanity or weirdness. New Yorkers just want to get where they’re going and not be bothered. People commented, after September 11th, how unusually nice everyone in New York was being to each other. When I moved here, wanting to witness this in action, I watched people watching weirdness—the drunks and the buskers and the beggars and people yelling at each other. I’ve decided that New Yorkers are just as put off by insanity and weirdness as people in Denver. But, like abused spouses who only want to avoid conflict whenever possible, subway riders employ the strategy of disengagement. Ignore it. It’ll go away. Ignore it. It’ll confine itself to ricocheting off the walls, it won’t splatter on me. There’s only three stops to go. It’s not worth the trouble.

I watch the people watching. We keep a close eye on the weirdness, all of us. We need to know the precise moment when Operation Ignore must escalate to Operation Mandatory Evacuation.

On the A train from JFK, two little black boys are arguing over how best to do the Moonwalk. One has the backward slide down. The other has noticed how Jackson would kick his knees forward just a little. They each have half the formula, they just need to combine it.

I make the mistake of opening my mouth to tell them this. They stare at me, stunned, unblinking. I have invaded their privacy.

My Thoughts on Gun Control

On Where Pianos Roam

Two years ago this month (on January 28, specifically), I was held at gunpoint in east Nashville. Two young males held a revolver up towards me and managed to escape unscathed with my wallet.  It is easily one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I sometimes reflect on what happened, and hope it never happens again.  (You can read the full story HERE.)

In light of both this and the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my thoughts on the ongoing debate surrounding gun control.

I have to first say that in spite of my own experience with the barrel of a gun I am not opposed to the right of people to bare arms. In matters of self-defense against thieves, terrorists, rapists, and all sorts of perpetrators, I think that the mindful possession and minimal use of a gun is reasonable.

This is where I draw the line.

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